My husband and I found ourselves with a small window of freedom on an uncharacteristically sunny and gorgeous day in February. We were heading home from Abbotsford along Zero Ave when I said “Did you know Glass House Estate Winery is along this road?” Hubby said “Oh, cool!” So we stopped for a visit.
Glass House Estate Winery doesn’t look like a winery. It’s a glass building, reminiscent of a greenhouse actually, paying homage to the de Jong family’s 60+ years in the greenhouse industry. The tasting room is a free standing room inside the building, providing guests with 2 very different tasting atmospheres. The cozy tasting room has a traditional bar along with a handful of large square tables where you can purchase a bottle and order a plate of charcuterie. There were a couple of small groups sipping and savouring when we arrived, thoroughly relaxed and enjoying the sun beaming in through the windows.
On the other side of the tasting room wall is the open and airy event space. Tables are also set up there for guests to purchase bottles and eat and mingle in slightly larger groups.
The de Jong family jumped straight into the deep end when they planted their vines in 2011. A total of 11 varietals currently grow on the Langley property, 9 white and 2 red (Cabernet Franc and the Pinot Noir used in their rosé). The other reds come from a partner in Naramata, a climate more conducive to growing heartier red grapes. They harvested their first vintage in 2014 and then waited until March 2017 to open their doors and welcome guests to taste and buy their wines. All the winemaking and bottling is done on the estate property.
The de Jong family consists of Arthur, wife Ingrid, and 3 daughters. After retiring from the greenhouse industry and taking a trip to the Okanagan for inspiration, Arthur set out to build a winery and excavated 8 acres himself to plant the grapes. Ingrid has been by his side, and has progressed through to Level 4 Diploma through the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust, which is no small feat! Ingrid and daughter, Margit, were both behind the tasting bar when we sidled up. It truly is a family affair!
Tastings are $10 for 5 pours with a $5 rebate if you purchase a bottle. The pours are generous enough you could easily split it with another person. Although, the selection is wide enough you and a guest could both get 5 different wines, thus giving you 10 samples to try! Here was our rundown:
A great start, light, crisp, great acidity. A touch of sweet, with an aromatic finish.
Rosé des Pinots
You don’t come across these very often, a mix of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. The light salmon colour comes from the Noir’s 11 hours of skin contact prior to fermentation. Reminiscent of a Provence style rose, dry with a touch of tart cranberry balanced beautifully with a note of sweet strawberry. Mouth wateringly delicious.
We were ready to move onto reds before Margit suggested we try this off-dry white blend. Bonus! In true off-dry form it had some tropical fruit, mango and pineapple. But it was the tart green apple flavour that came through in the end for me, a result of the Gruner Veltliner. Guys, GRUNER! It’s not a very common grape in this province, but it’s one of my faves and I was so excited to see it pop up in this estate grown blend.
This is the youngest red they produce, using free run juice and aged 12 months in oak. I’m a huge fan of what the Okanagan wineries have been doing with this grape, it’s quietly becoming one of our province’s signature varietals. I was curious to try this one, estate grown in Langley, I wasn’t sure if it would flourish like it is elsewhere. But it’s good, like really good! Light and herbaceous, but still fruity enough, it’s excellently balanced. A dry finish and low tannin. Super drinkable.
I was surprised at how mellow this one was. Aged 2 years in French oak, I really had to sniff to get any centre stage aromas. A mix of Tempranillo, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, it’s got some blackberry, sweet tobacco and coffee flavours.
We finished things off with their Bordeaux-style blend. I didn’t ask the exact varietal composition but when they advertise Bordeaux-style, you don’t really need to ask. It was medium to full bodied, but not heavy. Had some great body with slightly higher tannin than the other reds we tasted. Aged 24 months in French oak, a great Sunday night wine.
All in all I was extremely impressed. It’s a young winery, making true to varietal wines in a difficult wine growing region. They’ve made smart decisions with their grape choices all while creating a warm and inviting space for people to visit and enjoy an hour or two.
Great job Glass House, I can’t wait to come visit again!